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Tom Waits – [Album]

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Thursday, 27 October 2011

Since Tom Waits' music first started appearing on record store shelves thirty-eight years ago, the singer has traveled to all four corners of the musical map. He's been dozens of characters in that time too; he's been a coffee shop crooner, a back-alley bard, a jazz-cat gigolo and (most recently) a backwoods boondock saint as given to pounding on the tin walls of a chicken coop for percussion as he is to finding a drum kit. Waits has been everywhere the shadows grow long and tried a bit of inspiration from everywhere he's gone but, at every turn, he's always been careful to bring along a bit of his own inimitable shade of gray to mix in and color the places and characters he finds. In that spirit, five years ago, Waits set to looking back and collecting some of the bits of discarded work he'd left behind, and released it as the three-disc Brawlers, Bawlers and Bastards set. The effort was presumed to be an act of good responsibility; before you leave a campground, it's considered good form to tidy your campsite and, in Waits' case, doing so meant the singer would be able to start fresh wherever he set down next but, as it would turn out, Tom Waits' act of picking up after himself caused him to see some of the sounds and ideas he'd played with before and draw new inspiration from them. Now on Bad As Me, it's possible to hear some of the sounds Waits has touched on throughout his body of work, grafted carefully onto new ideas and new sounds and new values for a new, exciting album which both closes several creative circles as well as off-shooting into new territory.

The sounds of Tom Waits' past and present manifest immediately as the first horn section to appear in a Tom Waits song in years pipes up to open “Chicago” and kick Bad As Me into gear. The stuttering saxophone, trombone and clarinet supplied by Clint Medgen and Ben Jaffe blow in like a breath of fresh air here, but they're not the sort of fluid, jazzy stuff which flowed through albums like Swordfishtrombones or Rain Dogs. Here, the rhythmic, wheezing figures supply an anxious shuffle to the song, helps it move along quickly and adds fuel to Waits' own hope that “maybe things will be better in Chicago” expressed in the lyric sheets.

This isn't the tenor that fans have grown accustomed to hearing from Tom Waits. Many of the sounds – the horns, the banjo, the guitars from Marc Ribot and Keith Richards (who lends a hand here for the first time since Bone Machine) – are familiar, but they've all been recast in a new and captivating light here. Some readers may question the success of such a turn but, in listening, this new mixture is so infectious that listeners won't need to be asked twice to take their seat when Waits calls out “All aboard” at the end of the song; they're already all in.

With first introductions made, the going gets weird as Waits revisits the corner of “Heartattack And Vine” to find it re-populated with eerie keyboards and a new crowd of “Raised Right Men” before getting lost in an uneasy, David Lynch-esque dream in “Everybody Talking At The Same Time.” As was the case in “Chicago,” none of these places or sounds is new to Waits, but the aged quality of the timbres in these songs implies that there has certainly been a lot of time passed since Waits last passed through, and times have changed. Looking at the aural landscape as a whole, the streets are a little darker and wetter, and there's even less cheer now than there was a quarter century ago. Even so, as he presses forward, the singer finds a hot juke joint on “Get Lost” and sputters and squeals along with his band on a bit of hot rock there before crossing the street to the low side of the road for “Face To The Highway.” Each step of the way, Waits finds a couple of his own to re-trace which some fans would complain feels a bit like a shortcut but, really, it is truly enough; by taking his older musical forms and updating them with new sounds, Waits discovers a creative halfway point which is equal parts old and new, and will be wholly satisfying for listeners because while they'll recognize some of the movements made, none of them feels like a back-pedal or regression. That's the beauty of Bad As Me; it's not one hundred percent new and not one hundred percent old, it's a half-and-half mix of both and is fun to trip along through.

Artist:

www.badasme.com/
www.myspace.com/tomwaits
www.facebook.com/tomwaits
www.twitter.com/tomwaits

Download:

Tom Waits – “Bad As Me” – Bad As Me

Album:

Bad As Me is out now. Buy it here on Amazon .

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Tom Waits – [Album]

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Monday, 23 November 2009

When that video press release hit the web in 2008, it felt like a holiday and a celebration all rolled into one. Tom Waits was hitting the road for his first full-length theater tour in years and, right away, the devotees, parking lot sages, those that hoped and those that had waited for so long were twitching n fits of ecstasy. Tom Waits on tour – not some faraway one-off show! Tickets for the entire tour were gone as quickly as they were made available and those that were left in the cold (I know this, from personal experience) could feel that chill down to their marrow; particularly as word and praises were parceled out about the sets. The Glitter & Doom Tour was called the event of the season and it only felt like salt in the wounds for some.

There is some consolation to be found in listening to ANTI–'s compilation of some of the songs from some of the nights on the tour though – at the very least, no one was overstating the quality of the shows. In fact, if Glitter & Doom Live is any indication, the shows really were that fine, the sets were really that satisfying and the sights really were something to behold.

The two disc collection of songs and stories (disc two of the deluxe edition is comprised of a single track that compiles some of the stories the singer told while sitting on his piano bench during the sets) released by ANTI– will have those fans that weren't able to procure a golden ticket to see Tom Waits up close and in person at least cracking a wry smirk of resigned satisfaction because at least the magic wasn't lost with the moment.

For fans, listening to the songs on Glitter & Doom Live is a bit of magic but even more fascinating is to watch the uninitiated listen for the first time; they will sit agape, trying to absorb what is certainly an otherworldly experience.

Backed by a six-piece band that includes (by turns) guitar, banjo, organ, chamberlain, melotron and upright bass, Waits grinds, stomps howls and croons out augmented and updated performances of classics including “Singapore,” “Get Behind The Mule,” “Fannin Street,” “Metropolitan Glide” “Goin' Out West” and more to audiences that know they're witnessing something rare and great, and the intangible fact that the audience is savoring it seems to bleed through headphones as, when Waits performs, they don't make a peep. If they did, it would be impossible to miss; each song has been retrofitted here to resemble the airy grooves that characterized Real Gone and so, while each song remains hard to hold, there's still enough space in each arrangement to let the audience (both those that were in attendance and those that are peaking in now with headphones) take each song in and find some space to call their own.

As the set moves its way along, the grooves get deeper and more hypnotic (“Metropolitan Glide” should come with a prescription that will calm frayed nerves) and, by the time the set reaches “I'll Shoot The Moon,” there comes a sublime, macabre chill that no singer other than Waits could ever hope to achieve and have listeners find comforting. After that, the snakes (both instrumental and vocal) slither out and coil around the collective cerebellums of listeners thereafter (“Green Grass,” “Make It Rain”), exerting a gentle but increasing pressure until listeners beg for more (they do – at the end of “Make It Rain”).

The set ends on the best possible note – both a high and a low one – with one of Tom Waits' famous stories and a warm, heartfelt and beautiful ballad (in the Waitsian sense – full of romance and anachronism), “Lucky Day.” It's the sort of song and emotional moment that will make you look down as your spirit goes up, and long-time fans will be reminded why Tom Waits has held them captivated for so long. The singer has a manner that will draw you in and hold you gently because, as caustic as any song might get, there's love in it. In the case of Glitter & Doom Live, that love is repaid in kind and without hesitation by those in the theaters caught on the record and those in the comfy seats at home. From Glitter & Doom Live, everyone walks away satisfied.

Artist:

www.tomwaits.com/

www.myspace.com/tomwaits

Album:

Glitter And Doom Live
comes out on November 24, 2009 on ANTI– Records. Pre-order it here on Amazon

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